Scaling for SMBs

While all customers are important to a business, not all customers have the same economic impact or potential for revenue expansion. In the early days of any business, you want to be as close as possible to all your customers. But as your company grows and matures, you will have to think about the resources you’re investing in customer relationships, and make that investment appropriate for the customer’s level.

In this post we will provide tips and advice on scaling your customer success team to serve your small- and medium-sized business (SMB) customers in a way that is financially viable for your company, yet still drives customer loyalty and helps you retain customers.

Segmenting Your Customers

It may seem intuitively obvious, but the first step in knowing how to support your SMB customers is having a clear definition of who they are. If your sales team already has guidelines in place to define customer tiers, then it’s best to use those. For companies that have not yet tiered their customer base, it’s typical to segregate customers based on the number of purchased licenses/users and/or the expected annual recurring revenue (ARR) from your customer segments. You will also want to consider a customer’s growth potential when assigning them to a segment – it may not make sense to put a small business into your “SMB” segment if they show significant growth potential.

After establishing the rules for tiering your customer base, it’s important to know the average cost per customer segment for your post-sales support. If you don’t know the cost per customer, have your CSMs track the amount of time they spend per customer for a couple weeks. Average the time spent per each customer, and then divide your total customer success investment (salaries, bonuses, capital equipment, etc.) by this number. That gives you a rough gauge of what you’re spending per customer now.

Analyze your customers in cohorts to determine the average cost per customer for your post-sales efforts. Knowing what each customer tier costs you to support will help you make decisions about investments for scalability.

Scaling Effectively

It’s likely that as much as 40%-50% of your total number of customers will fall into your SMB segment. Because these customers generate less revenue for your business, it’s simply not cost effective to cover them at the same ratios you’d use for enterprise customers. To scale effectively, you should use processes and technology to extend the reach of your CSM team.

There are three main areas you can concentrate on when scaling your customer success team for SMB customers:
Automating regular touch points in the customer lifecycle
Addressing questions and help requests using self-service technology
Delivering web-based training

We’ll touch on all these in more detail now.

Automating Regular Touch Points

A big part of the customer success role is to monitor and improve their company’s relationship with its customers. Many companies have a prescriptive plan on how their senior CSMs should engage with top-tier customers. However, those plans are typically not scalable to the large number of SMB customers you have. Email automation tools can help you significantly in reaching these customers in a cost-effective way. Here are a few situations where automation may help:

Sending new customers periodic tips and ideas to help them use your product will reduce the amount of time it takes for them to get engaged. Your CSM team likely knows the top 5-10 things that new customers struggle with. The team can create content that addresses those pain points, which can then be sent out on a weekly or bi-weekly basis via your marketing automation software.

Your CRM and order management system will most likely allow you to automate the renewal process. With most systems (including Salesforce) you can set up date-based triggers that will automatically send a renewal letter to the customer. We recommend sending these letters between 60-45 days before the actual renewal. Your CRM also likely allows you to customize these emails so they appear to be coming from a specific resource on the CSM team rather than just a random email address.

Many analytics tools exist to help SaaS-based companies analyze the usage behavior of their customers’ end users. Many of these analytics systems also allow you to perform notifications based on user actions. If the analysis of your data shows that a new cohort of end users is engaging with the tool, or that user adoption is significantly up or down, many of these tools will allow you to execute a workflow to send notifications, information or links to help articles.

Self-Help Service Technology

Your help desk/call tracking software should provide you with analytics that allow you to take a deeper dive into customer questions and issues. Review your data to determine which products (or which areas of a given product) generate the most service requests. From this list, you can have your customer success or technical support teams create articles that address these questions. If you find that questions about your product cluster around a specific area (setup, user administration, etc.) consider writing a series of FAQs based on your incoming cases.

Many call tracking systems also have a built-in framework for a customer self-help site or user community. All these systems operate in a slightly different way, but the end goal is the same – to help your company provide users with answers and insight on how to use your products. Not only will self-service help reduce your service costs, but it will also help reduce your overall customer effort score.

Web-based Training

​Delivering end-user training via the web is a cost-effective and interactive way to teach your SMB customers the ins and outs of your product. A client of ours offered a quarterly training session called “base training” via the web. The session was open to all SMB customers, and the CSM assigned to oversee SMB accounts walked through the basic use cases of the product. Customers could ask questions in real-time through a chat tool their web conferencing service provided. These sessions were recorded and then stored on the company’s customer self-help center. Once a new customer was on-boarded, they were directed (via an automated email campaign) to review the most recent “base training” recording that was available. They were also invited to the next live training if they had additional questions.

This client also added new features into their product on a monthly basis. The CSM and/or marketing team recorded “new features” webinars for their SMB customers. These webinars not only demonstrated the new functionality, but it also explained to the customers why it was important and how it helped them work more productively.

Final Thoughts

There are many other ways that technology can help your success and support teams effectively scale to your SMB customer base. Engage your teams to help determine where automation will help, and then leverage them for creating content where needed.

As you use technology to manage and help your SMB customers, make sure your communication isn’t impersonal. Emails, webinars, etc., should all come from the CSMs on your team assigned to SMB customers. The customers should also have a route to connect directly with their CSM – but if the self-help and automation tools are the customer’s’ path of least resistance, you’ll be able to direct them there first.

Jim Jones is the founder and CEO of Voyant Consulting, a Chicago-based firm that helps clients improve customer loyalty by improving their Customer Success organizations. In his previous roles with multiple international technology companies, Jim has a history of increasing customer loyalty, and improving customer retention by building world-class customer success and customer support groups. He has also been a featured speaker and blogger on the topics of customer success, voice of the customer programs and customer experience.

Jim Jones

CEO & Founder, Voyant Consulting